Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Emily Lane: Albert Woodfox Remains Jailed As Legal Maneuvers Continue

Previously published at Nola.com/Times-Picayune:  

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's Office has filed a notice to appeal a federal judge's ruling calling for the release of Albert Woodfox, the last remaining imprisoned member of the Angola 3, [while] Woodfox...remain[s] in state custody in St. Francisville. Woodfox has been in solitary confinement in Louisiana prisons for more than 40 years related to the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. Courts have twice overturned his murder conviction, but the state is seeking to take Woodfox to trial for a third time in the 43-year-old case.

U.S. District Judge James Brady issued a ruling Monday (June 8), listing five "exceptional circumstances" in Woodfox's case that prompted him to grant the New Orleans native unconditional release, thereby barring a third trial…

Woodfox was transferred to the pretrial facility from a state prison in February, after a grand jury there indicted him for a third time in the decades-old murder that occurred at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Just before noon Tuesday, [State’s Attorney’s office spokesperson Aaron] Sadler said the state filed its notice to appeal the ruling with the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. He said the office plans to file on Tuesday afternoon its request for an emergency stay, which could prevent Woodfox's release while the court mulls further arguments.

Lawyers for the state and Woodfox met in Baton Rouge Tuesday (June 9) morning. But no word has come down about the outcome of that meeting.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, has called for Caldwell to comply with Brady's ruling.

"Attorney General Caldwell must respect the ruling of Judge Brady and grant Mr. Woodfox his release immediately," Richmond wrote in an emailed statement.

"This is an obviously personal vendetta and has been a waste of tax payer dollars for decades. The state is making major cuts in education and healthcare but he has spent millions of dollars on this frivolous endeavor and the price tag is increasing by the day." 

Amnesty International, a major human rights organization that has pushed for Woodfox's release and decried the state's use of solitary confinement, issued a statement Tuesday calling Brady's order a "long-awaited legal triumph."

"In granting Albert Woodfox's release the federal court has taken a significant step towards addressing the injustice and cruelty he has suffered for decades," said Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International.
Changeseeker's Note: This morning's meeting was scheduled to discuss the civil case that will ensue when the criminal case is finally laid to rest once and for all. It is hard to imagine, however, that the State did not at least think about broaching the topic of their dropping their case in return for Woodfox dropping the civil suit or Woodfox pleading to a lesser charge and being released, as they forced Angola 3 member Robert King to do a decade ago. At that time, the three Black Panther Party comrades agreed that King should take the offer so that he could more effectively build and maximize a movement to release the others, which he has done without pause ever since. Up until now, Woodfox has refused any such offer because, he says, "There are political prisoners locked down deeper than me and if I leave without settling this, I'll be abandoning them without hope."
BREAKING NEWS:  This afternoon, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the State a temporary stay until 1 pm on Friday, June 12th, to decide if they will or won't issue a more lasting one. Even if they do issue a more lasting stay, the issue of requesting bail could then be considered.

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